Brad Wardell's views about technology, politics, religion, world affairs, and all sorts of politically incorrect topics.
What a crazy day
Published on March 11, 2006 By Draginol In Gaming

Well, today GalCiv2.com got both slashdotted, Digged, and Neowin'ed at the same time.

Why? It started earlier today.  Someone over at Digg.com made an article that implied that Stardock wanted people to pirate our game, Galactic Civilizations II.  Which is definitely not true.  We need every sale we can get.

But the argument was essentially that because our retail game has no copy protection that we essentially invite piracy. And since sales of the game have been so good, that piracy somehow "helped" the game.  I doubt that very much.  I think sales have been strong because of positive word of mouth of people who bought the game in the first place.

Meanwhile, someone over at Starforce's site made a point of telling them how well GalCiv II has done.  At that point, the admin of the Starforce forums did something...something I am still stunned about.  They put up a working URL to a site that was listing illegal torrents of our game to "prove" how much it's being pirated (wow, there's piracy? Gee, no kidding, thanks for directing all the people who didn't know about it to that link -- even I didn't know about it).

When I responded to the Digg article, I included this annoying fact that Starforce had linked to a site listing warez of our game.

This in turn caught the attention of a lot of people. What on Earth was Starforce's people thinking linking to a site with links to Warez copies?  Especially given that Starforce is one of the leading makers of anti-piracy software. I don't know what their motives are and I won't speculate. But we were deeply troubled by it.

When our guys started hearing about this yesterday afternoon, I asked them to contact both Starforce and the site they linked to and politely ask them to remove the links.  Starforce didn't remove the URL until tonight -- only after it got Slashdotted.  The site they linked to removed it and all other Stardock warez links in their list (they're a search site, they don't host the stuff) that could be found and did so within a few hours.

I don't want to make it out that I'm some sort of kumbaya guy. Piracy is a problem and it does cost sales. I just don't think it's as big of a problem as the game industry thinks it is.  I also don't think inconveniencing customers is the solution.

What we do with GalCiv II is pretty straight forward -- we include unique serial #s with each game. Those serial #s are then used to get updates. Our server knows which serials are out there and can send up a flag if, for instance, it's being used 100 times a week in 100 different locations.  It's a system that works very well and is largely invisible to users and still allows them to install the game on their laptop, their desktop, their work machine, their backup machine at home, etc. without being hassled.

The idea being that we win people over through providing better service through free updates with meaningful new featuers after release. 

But it doesn't mean we're naive about piracy.  We just think it's a) overstated and that CD copy protection isn't the best solution in many/most cases. 

Update: This is why JoeUser.com's availability (and WinCustomize's) has been spotty.  New, fast servers are on order so we should be in better shape soon.


Comments (Page 2)
on Mar 15, 2006
I think piracy is a lot more common than you think. I used to copy games from my brother and college buddies all the time and play them on my computer. If I lost the serial (or got a burned game / OS / program on CD from someone else), Id simply get a keygen off the net and crack it. Its not that hard.

When I was in college, one person had a game (Soldier of Fortune II), about 6 of us ended up copying it and playing it over a wireless network set up in the dorms. Id feel safe in saying a popular game, program, OS....up to maybe 20% of the people using it are using a copy of it. OS system copies are, I feel, much higher.
on Mar 16, 2006
Starforce makes money off instilling the fear of piracy in publishers. Stardock's stance on copy protection is extremely dangerous to Starforce. With all of the backlash against them lately, Starforce is losing ground and this makes them very nervous.